Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV was one of the most productive college defenders since 2019. Does he have the traits to carry over that production in the NFL?

A Senior Bowl standout in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle, how does Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV project to the NFL with his scouting report? There have been lofty comparisons for the Cyclones’ defender, and McDonald has the traits to back them up.

Will McDonald IV NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Edge Rusher
  • School: Iowa State
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height/Weight: 6’3 1/2″, 241 pounds
  • Length: 35″
  • Wingspan: 82 3/8″
  • Hand: 9″

Read McDonald’s college numbers aloud, and you’ll find yourself surprised at how little buzz he has.

Across four seasons as a consistent contributor on defense, and across three as a full-time starter, McDonald amassed 122 tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss, 33 sacks, seven deflections, and nine forced fumbles. Add in McDonald’s 2018 campaign, in which he preserved his redshirt, and he’s over the 40-mark in TFLs.

In three years since 2020, McDonald has 33.5 tackles for loss and 27 sacks to his name, averaging almost 10 QB takedowns per season. You’d be hard-pressed to find a prospect more productive behind the line of scrimmage than McDonald. And yet, he falls under the radar in the 2023 NFL Draft EDGE class at times.

On the heels of a standout Senior Bowl showing, however, McDonald’s stock is starting to rise again. Looking at the traits, and projecting to his ideal role, where does McDonald deserve to come off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft?

Will McDonald IV Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Extremely explosive athlete with effortless get-off and a blistering first step.
  • Brings overwhelming energy and twitch as a lateral twitch, easily off-setting blockers.
  • Has the explosive freedom to throttle up quickly and pass the apex with blazing speed.
  • Has the necessary ankle flexion to reduce his surface area while cornering.
  • Has elite proportional length, which he can combine with burst to generate power.
  • Has shown to bait tackles with initial rushing angles and feigned bull rushes.
  • Flashes the ability to stack counters, such as double swipe-rip, around the edge.
  • Very flexible athlete who can easily lower himself and acquire leverage.
  • Can levy rapid spin moves and use his length to stab the ice pick and finish.
  • Explosive athleticism and elite length culminate in strong pursuit utility.

Areas for Improvement

  • Lacks mass overall and can be easily handled by stronger, wider blockers.
  • Has below-average lower body strength, which impedes his ability to set the edge.
  • Lighter lower body drains from maximum power capacity, even when loading his base.
  • With lacking play strength and lighter mass, can be easily displaced in run defense.
  • Doesn’t always have the strength to rip free from blocks after breaching the apex.
  • Hands can be quicker and more precise on swipes and rip moves around the corner.
  • With longer arms, has some extraneous hand motion and inefficiency to cut down on.
  • Doesn’t quite have elite hip flexibility, and sometimes gets locked out at the apex.
  • Will be a 24-year-old rookie during the 2023 season.

Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV Current Draft Projection

McDonald grades out as a potential top-100 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. His athletic testing and Senior Bowl performance will undoubtedly help him, but there’s still the matter of projection when it comes to McDonald’s full evaluation.

On tape, McDonald has an abundance of extremely desirable athletic and physical qualities. He has elite proportional length for his frame, to go along with high-level explosiveness, agility, twitch, and flexibility. He has a great motor as well and flashes nuance with his pass-rush plan.

That said, strength is a big drawback for McDonald. On film, he’s easily moved in run defense with his lighter base, and he doesn’t show the hand strength to consistently deconstruct blocks. A role change in the NFL should help, however. He was misused by Iowa State at 4i and 5-tech and projects much better as a stand-up EDGE outside the tackle.

MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

McDonald’s lacking frame density still presents an issue. Even with his length and burst, he doesn’t have an overwhelming power element and can be outmuscled by larger blockers. But issues aside, McDonald will be able to better counteract them at 7-tech, where his blistering speed, twitch, length, and rapid-play pace can be maximized.

It’s worth wondering if McDonald has much room to add to his frame. At 24 years old, he’ll be one of the older rookies on the circuit. But early on, McDonald can factor into an EDGE rotation as a valuable pass-rushing catalyst. With more refinement and weight room work, he could grow to become a quality starter, with a particular affinity for attacking the quarterback.

Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Will McDonald IV

Strengths: Explosive front-seven defender with tremendous upside. Athletic and quickly changes direction. Moves around the field with ease and covers large amounts of area. Stays with assignments, plays with balance, and is rarely off his feet.

Tremendous edge rusher who shows speed up the field and ability in backside pursuit. Plays with excellent lean, quickly gets his hands up, and effectively uses them to protect himself. Often comes out of a three-point stance and plays with great leverage and body control. Stays with assignments and works hard.

Weaknesses: Lacks bulk and is easily disrupted from his angle of attack by the initial block. Out-positioned by opponents. Never really developed at Iowa State. May be unable to handle complex defensive schemes.

Overall: McDonald is an outstanding athlete who caused a lot of disruption over the past three seasons for the Cyclones’ defense. He possesses the size and explosion to be used as an edge rusher in a 3-4 alignment, but, at the same time, McDonald has enough athleticism to play in space. McDonald comes with great upside, but he’ll need proper coaching and development to fully complete his game.

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